The Miles Franklin Award and Associated Publicity

Over in the comments section to the right a number of correspondents are discussing some points I raised last week regarding the Miles Franklin Award. As part of that discussion I mentioned that "books get excluded that the general reading public would well assume were eligible". To which The Happy Antipodean, Dean, replied: "I think another alternative is to more thoroughly publicise the restrictions of Australian literary awards, as I suggested earlier. That way, nobody will be disabused when a good candidate fails to qualify."

Which, in a roundabout way, introduces the subject of publicity surrounding the Miles Franklin Award.

I've been in a few bookshops around Melbourne lately and have been rather disappointed in the lack of material regarding the award on open display. My local shop, Readings in Hawthorn, has a small poster attached to the wall next to their Australian fiction section. This poster, which seems to have been produced by someone other than the bookshop, lists the books, displays their covers, highlights the publishers and gives details of when the winner will be anounced. Pretty reasonable overall. I can quibble about the size of the poster but it's good to have something. The bookshop also lists the contending novels on the front page of its website.

On the other hand I was in Borders today, in Melbourne Central, cashing in an old book voucher by buying Roger McDonald's nominated novel and found nothing obvious about the award anywhere in the shop. Okay, I didn't check the graphic novel section but figured I'd hardly be likely to stumble across anything there. Anyway, I get to the cash desk and the lady behind the counter says something like "This one looks interesting. I've been eyeing it off for a while." "It's on the Miles Franklin shortlist," I said. "That's a pretty good indication," she said. She didn't seem aware that the shortlist had been released nor anything other than a form of "brand recognition" of the award.

I found this rather depressing. Last year the shortlisted novels all carried a silver sticker signalling their new-found status within a couple of days of the announcement. Nothing so far this year. I remain vigilent, but unhopeful.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 10, 2006 3:44 PM.

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